The Range Rover Sport

Rachel Meyer

High-end car manufacturers have finally come to the realization that luxury is a huge priority for auto buyers in all markets. Cognizant of the fact that the greater population cannot afford to spend $70,000 purchasing a vehicle, many fancy auto-manufacturers have begun to issue less expensive spin-offs of their top models. Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Audi and Jaguar are among the upscale car companies that have proliferated their fleets to include more economical models.

With a base-model C-Class costing $29,975 and a top-model S-65 AMG ringing in at $169,775, one can now purchase a Mercedes at nearly any price. The same is true for BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Porsche (Porsche’s fleet now spans a market ranging from $45,000 to 10 times that). Land Rover had been slower to adopt this new mentality until the British car company developed its Freelander (issuing it in the U.S. in 2002) to accommodate an under-$30,000 market. This extended Land Rover’s fleet to three.

Since then, Land Rover has been working to diversify further. In the not so distant past, Land Rover has overhauled its Range Rover and its Discovery (now the LR3). The recent updates addressed a need to ebb starkness and enhance sumptuousness without compromising rugged off-road capabilities (the company’s hallmark). Still, there was a near $35,000 gap between the Discovery and the Range Rover that the company determined ought to be filled. Enter the new Range Rover Sport. At $56,750, the Range Rover Sport occupies the price-market in between the LR3 ($38,950) and the Range Rover ($74,950).

Although many of the handsome, styling features of the Range Rover Sport are evocative of its more expensive namesake, Britain’s latest sports utility vehicle has more in common with the Land Rover LR3 than the pricier Range Rover.

For 2006, two versions are being offered: the 4.4 liter V-8 HSE and the 4.2 liter V-8 SC (super-charged). The HSE boasts 300 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of 8.2 seconds, while the super-charged model offers an additional 90-hp, shaving one-second off of the HSE’s 0-60 mph time. The HSE is not available in the orange “Vesuvius” color that Land Rover chose for the vehicle’s advertisement.

The extra boost and color make the SC look a lot sportier than the base model. Thus, if you want the version that lives up to the name, the super-charged powertrain is the one – that is, if you have an extra $13,000 to spend (plus gas money, because even the base model is a bit of a gas-guzzler)!

HSE or SC, both trims have a lot to offer. An athletic exterior is accentuated by muscular lines and side cooling vents, which resemble the fierce nostrils of a bull. When the driver revs the engine while waiting for the light to change at the Broad Street/College Street intersection, the Range Rover Sport bears an uncanny likeness to a bull ready to ambush a matador.

A grill with perforated vents across the nose is nicely positioned between bi-Xenon headlamps, which serve to give the vehicle a sophisticated appearance during the day and a forceful halogen presence at night. The striking exterior is made complete with stylish silver door handles, alluring alloy wheels and a tight tush with dual exhaust pipes, the Range Rover branding across the bottom, and the “Sport” stamp at rear.

The exterior is nice, but it is in the vehicle’s interior that comfort and convenience are given top priority. I had the fortunate experience of riding in the Range Rover Sport not too long ago, and I can testify that the cabin is not lacking in luxury. Leather, wood and silver are used in a complimentary combination to achieve a calm and uncomplicated ambiance.

The GPS system is easy to use, and, unlike some of its peers, Land Rover chose to keep the onboard computer simple by keeping the sound system and air conditioning controls separate from the GPS controls.

The driver and front-seat passenger are made to feel engulfed by the wrap-around dash and console. However, rear space is limited and passengers in the back could use more leg room. Cargo space, on the other hand, is ample; overall, the Range Rover Sport’s interior is well crafted and proportioned.

Both the HSE and the SC have a tight turning radius, which feels great as the steering wheel passes through the Range Rover Sport driver’s fingertips with effortlessness.

Some favorite features include standard parking distance control, active roll mitigation (maximizes stability and prevents rollover), plus a dynamic response system and electronic air suspension, which work to make this high-end SUV’s handling sound and sporty. The standard Harmon Kardon audio system is stellar, and options like Bluetooth and Sirius radio make the car technologically up to date.

The stodgy Land Rover of yesteryear is long gone and a new Land Rover with an improved and much hipper image has emerged, one that has married the company’s traditional ruggedness with a new emphasis on luxuriousness. The newest member to Land Rover’s better-rounded fleet, the Range Rover Sport, is a healthy blend of fanciful form and forceful function. Keep an eye out; it won’t be long before you see a Range Rover Sport scaling the Colgate campus.